The value of thinking in terms of advancing positions is that it allows you to easily clarify complicated question . For example, Sun Tzu taught that every meeting between opponents (even meetings that didn't result in conflict) changed their relative positions. So you avoid meetings that will damage your position and encourage meeting that will help your position. Simple. Right?
For example, take Obama's pledge that, if he is president, he will meet with America's opponents like Iran's Ahmadinejad unconditionally. While this sounds noble and civilized, it looks very different if you ask how such a meeting will change positions.
It would automatically give Ahmadinejad more credibility as a leader of Islamic extremism. It would give him a very public platform to attack America and Israel. It would give him an opportunity to demonstrate his "firmness" regarding terror or nuclear weapons in the face of a US president which could only further enhance his reputation in the region.
Okay, so how would such a meeting help America's position? At least Neville Chamberlain returned from his meeting with Hitler with a worthless promise. We wouldn't even get that much from Ahmadinejad because he is ONLY rewarded for "standing up to America." So what is the point of Obama's promise to do meet other than giving an enemy the opportunity to humiliate us. Anyone?
UPDATE: Jack Kelly offers this history lesson for Obama
about talking to enemies.
UPDATE: Obama's people are now denying that he said
that he would meet with Iran despite, you know, saying that he would.